African women and men, some refugees or asylum-seekers, sat down with pastoral workers and white gay men, many living with HIV, on Saturday, at Vaughan House, Westminster, to focus on this year's UN World AIDS Campaign theme: "Have you heard me, today?" The day-long workshop heard calls for leaders of all the main faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, to show more compassion, listen more carefully and do more to support those with HIV/AIDS. The gathering also focused on the impact of HIV on women and girls, in the wake of the news that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of women around the world succumbing to the epidemic. At the end of the gathering, participants agreed to publish a Pastoral Plan, based on the day's reflections. The document will be sent to the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland, and several Catholic organisations. The Plan, which will be ready at the end of January 2005, will call for greater efforts to promote HIV awareness, education, training and prevention. It will examine how Catholics affected by HIV/AIDS can be supported by their faith. It will look at how Catholics can respond to demands of social justice; confront discrimination, and promote greater equity in access to treatment. The Plan will also challenge organisations in the Church which it says are not currently meeting the challenge of HIV/AIDS. A spokesperson said: "While agencies like CAFOD, Trocaire, SCIAF and CIIR are doing great work, HIV has fallen off the agenda of many other mainstream organisations. Minority ethnic chaplaincies and racial justice groups seem fearful of association with HIV pastoral responses, yet many of their populations are disproportionately affected." POSITIVE CATHOLICS, a new monthly support group for Catholics living with HIV now meets (except December 2004) on the 3rd Saturday of each month at a Central London Catholic venue. For further information see ICN Listings.
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